Nick Ogawa has studied the cello for a long time - 25 years, to be exact. But as the frontman for Atlanta-based orchestral pop outfit Takénobu, he's sidestepped the often static classical music world to pursue a more versatile pop sound. The result: a classically-influenced folk style that's been compared to other uncommon loop-pedal acts like the Books and Kishi Bashi.
After gaining popularity through platforms like Pandora and Spotify and broadening his sound by adding drummer John Craig and violinist Brian Harper, Takénobu heads to the Earl on Fri., Oct. 18 to open for Nashville's Americana duo Escondido. But before that, Ogawa talks holiday music, new songs, and Friday's back-to-basics performance.
So, why the cello?
The cello makes a lot of sense to me because it's a very similar range to the guitar and it sounds very vocal. The lack of frets definitely adds an extra challenge, but that's why I wanted to do it. Every dude in college is playing a guitar and singing, you know? So, what can I do that's a little different? Not that there's anything wrong with dudes in college singing and playing guitar.
What are you working on now?
A bunch of things at once. Pandora asked me to do some holiday songs for their new holiday station, so I'm trying to figure out a good way to do that without it being schmaltzy or cheesy. I think just keeping it simple and folk-like is a good way to do that. It's just such a staple ... I mean, everyone's done a Christmas song now. I've had really mixed reactions telling people. Some people are like, "Oh, that's great, I love Christmas music," and others are like "Oh God, don't do it."
I'm also working on writing new stuff - both more produced and more simple. I want to get a little heavier and darker. I feel like the last album was a little bit on the lighter side. I'd like to get a little more serious, explore stuff that's - not uncomfortable - but has more depth to it. It'll have more meaty orchestration and beat production, borrowing from the Books, where it's sampling cello sounds but creating more rhythmic sampled backbeat with cello sounds. And then also straightforward, folk-y songs with a couple instrumental lines and vocals.
And then I'm trying to slowly but surely orchestrate this instrumental album I did [Momotaro] for a full symphony ... I really want to score this album and get some actual orchestra to play it, whether that's a youth orchestra or something else. And I want to gradually move into film composition but also ramp up touring, because that's really fun too.
What are you planning for Friday's show?
We're gonna mix it up a little bit. Our drummer has a different obligation, so we're gonna go back to much older stuff that we haven't played in a little while, just me and violinist Brian Harper. That's how we started out, just him and I playing stuff. So we're gonna go back to that. It'll be more of a stripped down sound, which I think will fit really well with Escondido, actually.
This will be a very different show to anyone that's seen us before. It'll be much more acoustic and a little bit more dynamic. It'll just be two of us, and the dynamics of the cello and violin without the drums is just much bigger.
How have Pandora and Spotify helped you?
I submitted my record to [Pandora] in 2007 or 2008, and it just sort of organically grew to the point where it's getting like 500,000 plays a month.
They've been great. The last few shows I've played in other cities, there's always been an audience that has come there to see me, and surprisingly, people who have driven pretty far, which is awesome ... That's really encouraging. It really just seemed like a logical decision, with how rapidly it was being adapted. It's really a question of volume. I have ten times the listenership on Spotify and Pandora than I would otherwise.
What are the biggest differences between the classical and pop/rock circuits?
The audience, really, and the reactions are different. I wanted to play with a drummer [John Craig], just so we could play places where people were standing up, dancing, drinking, having fun, cheering loudly - not just sitting down, listening attentively, and sipping coffee. Both are fun, but when it's just one type of audience, it feels too subdued.
Is there anything about the classical community that you appreciate compared to the pop/rock world?
They're more loyal, I think. It tends to be a crowd that'll still buy music. There are audiophiles who seek out stuff that they will listen to for a long time, as opposed to the flavor of the month.
ooooohhhh, I'm so excited!! I can't wait to see them together!
come on man you know you got a bromance. you probably still rock that OutKast…
Yes, 14 is the correct answer. I'll pass your info along to the group's manager,…
That was January of 2007, and they are 21 now, so I'm guessing 14?